What was Sutton, Nebraska like in 1923? And why 1923? No reason. It could have been any year.
Our source of information is The Sutton News, one of two Sutton newspapers at the time. The News was published by Simon A. Fischer, a bachelor who lived with his parents August, a one-time preacher and Auguste. His father claimed to have been born in Pomerania and his mother in Brandenburg, again reminding us that Germany is only a few months older than Sutton, both created in 1871.
The paper was a six-page, five-column publication, no photos, a modest number of ads and mainly local news. There is some indication of a feeling of prosperity we’ve come to think of in the country after World War I and before the depression. Women’s clothing ads give a hint of the styles of the flapper era.
The major local ads were by Yost Auto Company and Phelps Sisters’ clothing store. The banks, Rosenbaum’s Store in Harvard, Hastings businesses and the Lyric Theater were other common advertisers.
1923 Suttonites had an appetite for entertainment. The Lyric Theater featured a steady stream of current movies, as long as 7-reelers but silent and black and white, of course. The Lyric added a new player piano during the summer and not a simple one either. This player had two rollers and mimicked a violin, piano, flute, mandolin and drums; it was a one-person orchestra. The Opera House hosted several traveling vaudeville shows during the year as well as a variety of other performances though owner W. J. Ochsner apologized for the condition of the 40-year old landmark promising forthcoming repairs.
Club membership and civic activities must have occupied a very high percentage of spare time. One issue of the paper included meeting information for The Walking Club, J. U. T., the Bay View Club, the Pennant Club, P. E. O., Stratton-Sutton Club, I. O. O. F and Rebekahs, Farm Bureau, Fortnightly Club and missionary support groups in two churches. The Masons weren’t mentioned as well as a couple of others that could have been.
High school and town team sports added to the entertainment schedule. This was the year following Sutton’s state championship basketball team. The 1923 team did not quite live up to its predecessor but they were playing big-city competition. Omaha Tech made the trip to Sutton and the local team had one three-day trip playing Beatrice, Seward and Hastings, going 2-1 before returning home.
Baseball was a popular sport and the local team was coached by Johnny (Chief) Bender. This was after he had coached football, basketball and baseball at Washington State, Haskell Institute, Saint Louis, Kansas State, Tennessee and if a recent phone caller is to be believed, University of Houston.
Sutton had a golf team of Burke, Lilliedoll, Pscherer and Stenson competing in the South Central Golf Association including York, Friend, Edgar, Clay Center and other towns often to large galleries.
The Sutton swimming pool was three years old and in 1923 claimed its second drowning victim, fifteen-year old Ora Salmon.
City officials elected in the spring included councilmen Henry Bauer and Carl Held, the druggist; city treasurer A. W. Burlingame and engineer Ed J. Griess. The local county commissioners were O. B. Percival and C. A. Anderson.
The look of the north end of downtown changed a little in 1923 as Anderson Studio built a new one-story stucco building and Reger Confectionary shared a new building with the Sutton Barber Shop.
One item from June, 1923 was especially exciting for historical society members. It described a new radio outfit at Harry Stevens’ Nebraska-Iowa grain elevator that gave Mr. Stevens direct contact with daily market quotations and a jump on his competitors. The Stevens family recently donated several items to our museum including Harry’s radio. For perspective, KDKA in Pittsburg began broadcasting as the first commercial radio station in the world in November 1920, just 2 ½ years earlier.
Two spring stories told of trips west by Sutton folk. The families of Fred J. Griess and Samuel Ullman departed for Lodi, California via a meandering 2,300 mile route of visits with friends. They reported back that the trip consumed 160 gallons of gas and that they found vineyards and fruit orchards priced at $2,000 to $3,000 per acre. Their intention was to become fruit growers. The Sutton – Lodi connection for Germans continues today as does the Saronville – Turlock connection for Swedes.
The same week a party of eight Sutton men left for Cody, Wyoming ranch land where they intended to “prove up” several tracts of Carey Act irrigated land with about 20 acres cultivated on each tract. The eight were W. H. Ebert, Jr., Henry Vauck, J. C. Catterson and son Harry, H. J. Bauer, Frank Levander, Ezra Elwood and S. A. Fischer the Sutton News editor. The Fischer family had a ranch in the area which appears to have been the connection to Cody. Letters back to Sutton during the summer told of the work but mainly about camping trips to Yellowstone and other scenic environs.
The route of the Potash Highway from Spearfish, South Dakota to Wichita, Kansas was announced in the summer showing the highway coming into Hastings from the north, passing through Sutton and south from Fairmont.
The year of 1923 was not an especially memorable year for Sutton, all the more reason to peruse the year’s newspaper for items of possible interest. It’s been fun; we’ll do it again sometime.
This article first appeared in the May, 2011 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For information about the magazine call Jarod Griess at 402-984-4203.